Samaipata, resting in the clouds
amaipata means ‘high place to rest’ in Quechua. Peace is a precious commodity in this part of Bolivia, located near the bustle of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. It takes a lot of chilling to calm the 25 nationalities that have nestled into the tropical plants, lured by eco tourism and legends.
Above all, Samaipata is the door to one of the prettiest locations in the south of Bolivia: the elbow of the Andes, home to the 60K-hectare Amboró National Park. Depending on the area, it might be best to stay away if you’re afraid of heights. Elevation ranges from 320 to 3,000 metres above sea level. Adventurous souls need to hire a local guide to make sure they don’t get lost crossing the mountain range, climbing down into the canyon or up the Inca hill.
Following El Che
Samaipata is part of the Che Guevara route. Although the revolutionary leader may or may not have visited, his followers certainly did. The route also crosses La Higuere, where he was killed, and Vallegrande, where his corpse was placed on show. Remember to visit the viewpoint and look out over the valleys, ‘El Che’s Beret.’
Biodiversity, varied landscapes and paths among the stunning mountain peaks. Not to mention waterfalls such as ‘La Pajcha’ (where you can cool off), the mossy paths, rocks and fern trees that despite growing a mere centimetre a year, have become veritable giants towering four metres high. Or a four hour trek to a viewpoint to see the Andean condor.
The pre-Hispanic fort is equally iconic. It is an unparalleled example of rock art in Latin America, built at 1,950 metres of altitude. The engravings locate it as a ceremonial centre used by the city between the 14th and 16th centuries. A huge sculptured rock dominates the town below.
This UNESCO World Heritage location was also used as a military fort. Treasure hunters, explorers and travellers have debated the significance of its location, crowned by the “choir of priests,” resembling twelve seats carved into the rock. Triangles, niches and zigzag grooves complete the symbols. The influence of Inca and Andean legends can be noted in the depiction of snakes, symbolising “the gods from the heavens.”
For mere mortals, after a long day of trekking some rest is in need. Samaipata has plenty of options. From El Pueblito, a 4* luxury resort, where the rooms recreate taverns and blacksmiths, to eco tourism options such as Finca La Víspera, with a strong focus on modern organic horticulture. “The terraces are our source of vegetable, fruit, condiment, preserves, medicine, wood, manure, construction materials and income,” they explain. “Exploring the estate, even on a short visit, gives you an undeniable sense of harmony.”
El Refugio de Los Andes is another peaceful location that, besides offering accommodation also offers all sorts of tours. Located deep in the Elbow of the Andes, they champion eco-tourism as their trademark and build their identity into Samaipata: “Nature, culture and spirituality.”